7 Things You Should Never Say To People Who Were Neglected As Kids

Photo: imustbedead via Canva | Rido via Canva | Yan Krukau via Canva
black sheep and golden child siblings

One of my friends was a product of severe neglect in her home.

Her parents didn’t give her many toys, didn’t hug her, and any affection she had was conditional on who was around to watch her get showered in it. We’re going to call her Lisa*.

Lisa is an amazing human being who has gone through a lot to get the family she always wanted. While her parents never came around, she has a loving partner, a kid, and tons of pets. For the most part, Lisa is chill.

Recently, she had a lot of difficulty paying her bills because she was laid off from her job. One of the people who was sitting at our table heard her vent, and then asked, "Why don’t you ask your parents for help? Aren’t they loaded? If they love you, they’ll help."

Lisa’s eyes narrowed and she got very quiet. Then she said, "I think you should go."

Everyone around us knew that Lisa was a product of neglect, though I don’t think that person realized how bad he sounded. 

RELATED: The #1 Indicator You Were Emotionally Neglected As A Kid

Here are 7 things you should never say to people who were neglected as kids:

1. "Why don’t you ask your parents for help?"

This one grinds my gears whenever I hear it said to a product of a neglectful household. You literally can’t get more tone-deaf than this, and yet for some reason, everyone suggests it to people who are struggling.

First off, those parents didn’t help that person out when they were a literal child crying for help. That’s when people are often at their most vulnerable. What makes you think they’ll care when their kid is an adult?

More often than not, people who ask neglectful parents for help get a response along the lines of, "You’re an adult. Why don’t you get a job and work for it?"

Gee. Thanks. 

2. "I’m sure your parents love you…"

I understand that this is often said with the best of intentions, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. For many, if not most, children of neglect, there is a very long, very painful grieving process they go through.

This process is them realizing that, no, their parents don’t care about them the way that they should. They often ask why they weren’t enough, or what they did to deserve it.

Did they deserve it? No. Absolutely not. And that’s part of them having to unpack that feeling and grieve the loss of parental figures that they’ll never have. It’s a brutal thing to experience. The last thing they want to deal with is someone who thinks they know their parents better than they do, who will tell them something they know not to be true.

They don’t want to have to explain to someone that their parents don’t like them, and even if they did, they don’t want to engage with them after everything that happened.

Their feelings are valid. Stop invalidating them and trying to "correct" them to make yourself feel better. You don’t know the story, so it’s best not to talk about it.

RELATED: 4 Subtle Ways Childhood Trauma Affects You As An Adult (Even If You Think You're Over It)

3. "Why can’t you afford to…?"

It’s 2023 and a large portion of Millennials and Gen Z kids rely on their parents to make ends meet. Whether it’s living at home, getting to do laundry, or even stopping by for food doesn’t matter. Those things add up.

If you’re a product of neglect, that safety net is never there — or almost never there. So, you’re stuck working twice as hard for a place of your own while others live at home. They get to spend extra money on cool clothes, their parents may have cosigned a nicer car, and life is easier for them.

But if you were neglected? You’re stuck with a hooptie and are eating ramen in a cheap apartment with roommates. Yay. That’s what happens when you’re a product of financial neglect — and that’s the best-case scenario.

Please do not ask a product of neglect why they can’t afford the basics. 

On a similar note, don’t ask people who were neglected as kids why they don’t know how to do their hair, why they don’t know how to clean something, or why they lack basic life skills. No one ever taught them that.

4. "I don’t believe that. Your parents are great people!"

Yes, they may be great people to you, but you do not know what goes on behind closed doors.

I’ll tell you a little story about someone I used to know who we’ll call Freedo*. Freedo had a reputation in the club scene for having sticky fingers to support his habit, but overall, he was known as a caring guy. 

We all liked Freedo and liked to hang out with him at concerts. He was funny, a good dancer, and caring towards us. None of us really ever saw his apartment, though. Freedo was one of us and it was hard to ignore the good times he offered up.

I should correct that statement. We liked him until one of us jokingly searched up his government name online and found out that he had made the news for an arrest.

Do you know what he was arrested for? His child was 20 pounds underweight, covered in bruises, and came to school high on drugs. His child was younger than 12 and was a product of one of the worst cases of neglect any of us ever heard of. CPS practically has a restraining order on him on behalf of his kid.

Had you told me that Freedo was a neglectful parent, I would have laughed at you back in the day. I would have probably accused you of talking crap or being jealous that Freedo was popular.

When I found out, I learned my lesson. No one knows what a person’s family life is really like. If someone says their parents were neglectful, you need to believe them.

RELATED: 5 Uncommon Strengths Of People Who Were Emotionally Neglected

5. "Aren’t you going to visit/care for/help your parents?"

Parents who are doting and loving with their kids should reasonably expect their kids to stick around. Kids who weren’t neglected or abused are messed up if they decide to bail on their parents when they’re older.

But if a parent was neglectful or abandoned their kid, they have no right to expect their kid to do anything for them. They do not get the right to feel entitled to assistance from kids they never helped.

Stop trying to bully the victim into "being the bigger person." It’s messed up and often opens up old wounds. If they choose to reconnect later on, that’s their decision and they should be applauded for it.

6. "Your siblings say your parents were great."

A lot of people who grew up in functional houses don’t realize that there is a common dynamic that occurs when you’re raised by narcissistic parents known as the Black Sheep/Golden Child dynamic.

If you are the Golden Child of a narcissist, your parents will love you. They will go to the ends of the earth to make you happy. They shower you with praise and gifts and adoration. You can literally do no wrong.

If you’re the Black Sheep of the family, then you get nothing. Black Sheep kids are often severely emotionally neglected. They don’t get presents, are often berated for the smallest issues, act as scapegoats, and will get no help even if they beg for it.

It’s not uncommon for the Black Sheep of the family to get kicked out of their home the moment they turn 18 — or even before it’s legal to do so. If they’re not kicked out, they soon leave because they don’t want somewhere they’re not wanted.

In these cases, their siblings will usually still love their parents and be adamant that they are supportive. Why wouldn’t they? They practically had an entirely different set of parents raising them.

7. "Why don’t you ever talk about your family?"

I’ll let you know the answer: Because you don’t want to hear the truth about them. It’s depressing.

Don’t ask people who have bad family relations to talk about them.

Child neglect is when a parent or caregiver does not give the care, supervision, affection, and support needed for a child’s health, safety, and well-being. Adults that care for children must provide clothing, food, and drink. A child also needs safe, healthy shelter, and adequate supervision. There are several kinds of child neglect, which you can read more about on the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline’s website.

There is no "smoking gun" for most child neglect.

While even one instance of neglect can cause lifelong harm to a child, neglect often requires a pattern of behavior over a period of time. If you suspect a child you know is being neglected, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline for more resources at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

RELATED: 10 Things Emotionally Neglected Kids Grow Up Believing — That Are Simply Not True

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.